The Heresy of Racial Superiority — Confronting the Past, and Confronting the Truth

" many churches, churchmen, and theologians gave sanction to that ideology of racial superiority"

"At times, white superiority was defended by a putrid exegesis of the Bible that claimed a 'curse of Ham' as the explanation of dark skin — an argument that reflects such ignorance of Scripture and such shameful exegesis that it could only be believed by those who were looking for an argument to satisfy their prejudices."

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David R. Brumbelow's picture

In 1959 Dr. T. B. Maston, longtime professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the following on the curse of Ham / Canaan:

“The curse of Canaan [also called curse of Ham] has no direct relevance to the contemporary racial situation. The Negro was not included in the original curse, since he was not and is not a descendant of Canaan. Even if he were a descendant of Canaan, the curse itself is no longer in force…

Surely the God who created man in his own image, who made of one all men, who is no respecter of persons, who loved all men enough to give his Son for their salvation, and who taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves did not and does not intend that any man or any segment of mankind should be kept in permanent subserviency or should be treated as innately inferior, as second-class citizens in a first-class society.”

-Dr. T. B. Maston, SWBTS, "The Bible and Race," Broadman Press; 1959.

David R. Brumbelow

Rob Fall's picture

anti-black racism in America was\is based on bad theology (as cited above) and\or bad science (blacks are less evolved).

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

....it's quite possible that the "scientists" did it first. Still, poor exegesis is poor exegesis.

This is one of those issues I have to take on faith. I don't remember ever hearing racial superiority preached or taught in the ministries/churches I've been involved in since childhood.

I do remember hearing the Ham idea as a sort of conjecture, but if memory serves, the one articulating it did not equate skin color with inferiority. Come to think of it, hard to see how a curse of skin color would have anything to do with superiority or inferiority... but, regardless, it's a silly--and needlessly offensive--way to handle that text.  

Somewhere we have a nice study on that passage by Will Varner. Will have to dig up the link.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Somehow it bothers me that Mohler is willing to describe racism as a heresy, but is at the same time willing to keep the names of racists as the names of buildings on his campus, and even as the name of an affiliated college.  What's next, the Arius College of Christology, the Leo X. Center for Sacrificial Giving and Stewardship, the Pelagius Center for Sanctification Studies, the Savonarola Art Gallery and Library...?  As long as we're in the business of honoring heretics, we might as well go for broke.  

I'm much more comfortable with noting that just as Moses and David became murderers but were not outside the grace of God, so can a racist ignore the implications of our common humanity and find grace with Christ--suffering loss for his sin, certainly, but not ipso facto finding himself outside of Christ.  Something is really iffy with Mohler's logic here.

And for that matter, I think we really ought to put in some serious effort in finding our own blind spots. It might be gluttony, it might be fornication and divorce, it might be materialism, and it might be supporting a welfare state that has enslaved a huge portion of our nation's poor.  Whatever it is, God calls us to get the beam out of our own eye, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Rob Fall's picture

grows out of thatred and murder which are listed in Scripture as sins.  Somehow, gluttony doesn't rank with the hateful and murderous behavior found in 1921 during the Tulsa Race Riot  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot.  At least, it doesn't to me.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Aaron Blumer wrote:

...I don't remember ever hearing racial superiority preached or taught in the ministries/churches I've been involved in since childhood.

I do remember hearing the Ham idea as a sort of conjecture, but if memory serves, the one articulating it did not equate skin color with inferiority. Come to think of it, hard to see how a curse of skin color would have anything to do with superiority or inferiority... but, regardless, it's a silly--and needlessly offensive--way to handle that text.  

My pastor at the previous church (IFB) to which I belonged (here in MN) preached & taught the Hamitic curse.  I always adamantly rejected it---which was a sore point between us.

He was born in Oklahoma in the early 1940's, and went to a certain IFB college in the south in the 1960's, if that excuses him an any way.

I remember him making racist (or at least racially-insensitive) remarks on several occasions.  Once, I was going somewhere with him in his car, and as we were stopped somewhere he was admiring a parked car.  Up to it walked a black man, who got in & drove off.  My pastor scowled, and he blurted out, "He probably thinks the world owes him a living!" (whatever that meant).  Another time, during a Wednesday night Bible study, we were looking at some passage that referenced a "rich man."  Trying to make some point that, given a choice, people would generally prefer to be the child of a rich man rather than a poor man, he asked me, "Larry, would you rather be the son of a rich man or a black man?"  (That, in his mind, was a perfectly valid way of framing the choice.)  I replied something to the effect that the two weren't necessarily mutually exclusive.  (He glared at me, and went on to his next point.) 

Bert Perry's picture

Rob Fall wrote:

grows out of thatred and murder which are listed in Scripture as sins.  Somehow, gluttony doesn't rank with the hateful and murderous behavior found in 1921 during the Tulsa Race Riot  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot.  At least, it doesn't to me.

Fair enough.  That said, however, most racists of the past didn't lynch people or riot--there are only 3400 recorded lynchings from the end of the Civil War through the 1960s, if I remember correctly, so most white racists didn't indulge violence.  If they were here to defend themselves, they'd ask you whether refusing service at a lunch counter, or refusing a man a job, was any worse than what we see in the inner city today after 50 years of promoting out of wedlock childbearing and welfare.  The latter kills thousands of young black men every year.

And for that matter, the results of gluttony--heart disease, diabetes, some cancers--kill hundreds of thousands of people annually.  As Doug Wilson would point out, so does legalized abortion and our culture of fornication and divorce.   We've sanitized it, but we're in reality a pretty darned violent society in these ways, and blacks are getting a lot of the worst of it, really.

Don't get me wrong--I've got no defense of Jim Crow or slavery to offer.  They were repulsive, and modern day racism is, too.  I just think that we've got a tendency (probably always have) of piling on to the obvious things of the past where those involved aren't around to defend themselves, in part because that's a lot more fun and easy than to take a look at our own lives to see where our own blind spots are.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I just reread it. The curse itself doesn't reference skin color in any way. There is a reference to servitude, so that's where the racism ties in.

Growing up, I did hear a pretty substantial number of nutty ideas scattered in between the good stuff, so it may be that it was there more often than I remember. The "Um... sorry, but no" kind of stuff I generally dismissed so quickly I have to really try hard to recall particulars.

Anyway, the curse was really on Canaan, I'm persuaded. Will Varner's short post on the topic was enough to convince me of that. It'll repost on the front page on Friday.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Lee's picture

I grew up in the racially segregated south, in church and Christian school, so I have heard all kinds of preaching both good and bad.  Obviously I don't remember every single message I've heard, but I remember enough to make a confident generalization in regards to preaching about race and/or the curse of Canaan/Ham.

Here is that generalization: the association with the curse was practically always reactive to what was observed about Hamitic, particularly black, people groups.  In other words, since many of the Hamitic cultures/societies were defined by certain characteristics--weak family structures/matriarchal prominence; tribalism; largely subjugated in politics and practice; etc.--the begging question was "is this the curse of Ham/Canaan in action?"  Some considered it as yes; some no; most were open-ended. 

Not defending bad exegesis, but I'm not willing to throw good people under the exegetical bus when their perception of what apparently is generally true is coincidental with a specific Scriptural statement and they publicly explore whether their observation is  the valid application or not.

Lee